In a sign of consumers’ continued price sensitivity, even muscle cars like Ford’s Mustang are touting their mileage.
Ford’s latest campaign, for its 2011 V6 Mustang, showcases the model’s power and handling, but also prominently notes its 31-miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency.
“The nice thing about the MPG message is that it’s great for people who always wanted a Mustang but thought maybe it was a little irresponsible,” said Toby Barlow, executive creative director at Team Detroit, which created the ads. “Now Mustang gets better mileage than some midsized sedans.”
Ford is not the only carmaker to market a fuel-efficient muscle car. The model faces new rivals like General Motors’ fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro, with a 2010 V6 model introduced last spring that carried a 29 MPG. In a closely watched rivalry last year, Mustang sold 66,623 cars—down 27 percent from the previous year—to Camaro’s 61,648 units, which was on the market for nine months to Mustang’s full year, per Chevy.
“Before 2008, Mustang had that world to itself and didn’t have much competition,” said Scott Oldham, editor in chief, Edmunds.com. “Thunderbird was gone, Celica was gone. Now you have Camaro, which has a convertible coming out in a year, and you have new rivals like the [third-generation Dodge] Challenger and [Hyundai] Genesis.”
Mustang’s new technological upgrade is the biggest overhaul since the 2005 model year when the iconic brand returned to a more retro car design.
“This is not your father’s Mustang. It’s completely new and updated,” said Jamie Imber, Mustang group account director at Team Detroit. “It’s a thrill machine with efficiency that allows us to bring in some new people who haven’t considered a sports car before.”
Ford broke the new 30-second spot last week on American Idol, with product integration on the show. TV ads and a 60-second national cinema spot run through the car’s peak summer-selling season. The commercial features shots of the car racing through San Francisco, with its 31 MPG claim appearing over the car and the letter “m” fading into the “m” in brand attributes like “primal,” “amped,” “untamed” and “transformed.” The camera alternates between the car and interior and exterior details.
There’s no voiceover; the only sound is the car’s revving and the song “Light of the Morning” from British alternative group Band of Skulls. The tag remains unchanged at “Drive One.”
Team Detroit initially wanted to shoot in L.A. but had to switch to the Bay Area after a scheduling conflict with the Los Angeles Marathon. The substitution brought an unexpected benefit, channeling iconic images reminiscent of the 1968 thriller, Bullitt.
“We shot a lot of cinematic footage that accidentally became a subliminal homage to Steve McQueen,” said Barlow. “We wanted to bring Mustang’s heart and visceral feeling to life, to look to Mustang’s heritage without getting buried in the past. The contemporary music helps to do that.”
Team Detroit declined to comment on whether Ford was boosting marketing support behind the brand. Last year Ford spent $21 million in measured media, per Nielsen. The pitch marks Mustang’s return to TV after a year’s absence. Last year, the brand focused on its enthusiast base by reaching out to them in the “Unleashed” series of digital minidocumentaries generated by consumers and a few celebrities.